Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 7 October 2021) . . Page.. 2925 ..
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (4.40): I commend my colleague Mr Braddock for his motion to the Assembly today. I would like to speak briefly about the abandonment of so many across Australia by our federal government, and I would like to speak about how this has affected the arts sector in particular. The federal government is responsible for providing income support payments to tens of thousands of Canberrans. The number of people who need this has grown significantly during each lockdown. People are unable to work. Many are out of work temporarily. Some will find themselves in a long-term situation.
Last year, JobSeeker allowed people to live a dignified life above the poverty line. They no longer had to choose between heating the house or buying the groceries. But that was a temporary measure. This year, the federal government did not match it. We need to raise the rate permanently. Keeping people below the poverty line has a devastating impact on every aspect of their life, but it also affects our community and it affects our health and safety during this pandemic. How can we expect people to comply with public health directions if they cannot afford to? We need to give people the support they need now and in the future to live. We need to value people as human beings who are part of our community, not as tax-paying cogs in a system.
I am glad to be part of an ACT government that provided a lot of supports. We increased the utilities concession payments. We funded the utilities hardship fund. We provided additional emergency food relief and we worked on homelessness and housing services. We provided residential tenancy relief and we worked with landlords and tenants to end evictions. We provided the COVID-19 test hardship isolation payment and a range of COVID-19 business support grants.
The ACT government and the federal government co-funded many of these payments, and then the federal government unilaterally pulled the funding one morning with a phone call—a phone call. This is not good governance; it is not consultation. Speaking as a Green on the crossbench in a Greens-Labor government, this is not how shared power works. It is outrageous to cancel these payments without consultation and consideration. To do it during a public health emergency is even worse.
The ACT government is mapping our way out of lockdown based on health advice. We want to take care of our people. To force us to act because it is somehow in the interests of the economy is ludicrous. It is as if the federal government thinks the economy is somehow independent and separate from the people who create that economy.
It was hard to know what to do about this. The federal government has 100 times the budget of the ACT across income streams like income tax and GST revenue. We do not. We effectively have a budget one per cent the size of the commonwealth. We cannot stretch our budget to provide the income support to people that the federal government should be providing and which it has now withdrawn. So we have used the measures that we have. We have done our best, but we need federal leadership that puts people first, particularly during a crisis.